2017 Serpentine Pavilion by Francis Kéré

Zaha Hadid, Daniel Libeskind, Bjarke Ingels and Ai WeiWei. These are just 3 of the 17 world-renowned artists and architects who have been invited to design a Serpentine Pavilion since the initiative began in 2000, with Hadid’s famous structure.

Every year an architect who is yet to design an England-based project is invited to create a pavilion in Hyde Park, next to the Serpentine Gallery, and this year Francis Kéré joined their ranks.

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Kéré’s 2017 Serpentine Pavilion. 

Francis Kéré, who was born in Gando, Burkina Faso in 1965, works for Berlin firm Kéré Architecture. Kéré moved to Berlin to train at the Technical Academy, and has since contributed work to exhibitions at MoMA and Royal Academy, London, as well as solo exhibitions at The Architecture Museum, Munich and The Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Over 250,000 architecture enthusiasts visit the pavilion every year, and Bjarke Ingels 2016 structure was one of the Top 10 London Free Exhibitions. After the success and complexity of the 2016 Pavilion, I’d heard from a quite a few friends that this year’s structure fell a little flat, so I have to admit I went in a little skeptical, secretly hoping to be wowed. I wasn’t disappointed!
It is certainly true that the structure itself is fairly simple when looked at as a single entity. But the beauty of the structure I believe comes from the simplicity matched with the balanced detailing. Kéré’s inspiration for the pavilion is drawn from trees. Trees are often a central social hive in Burkina Faso, providing shelter and a social space for residents. The pavilion echos this with its wide blue base and golden canopy that funnels rain water, and shelters those beneath it all made from wood.

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Detailing of the wooden panels that make up the base of the pavilion.

I was lucky enough to visit the Pavilion during a torrential rain storm (although it didn’t feel that way at the time, having failed to bring either umbrella or rain coat, thank you English summer). Underneath the canopy is dry, but the design of the roof streams the rain water into a waterfall in the centre of the structure; it is beautifully soporific.

Despite every inch of covered space being filled by patrons sheltering from the rain, having coffee, reading and drinking in the atmosphere, the rain dampens any noise except the waterfall in the middle. The happy shouts of children playing in the rain cut through the quiet, which I’m sure Kéré would love.

 

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An Entrance to the Pavilion

Burkina Faso has one of the worst rates of education and literacy in the world. One of Kére’s projects there was the construction of Gando Primary School, which like the Serpentine Pavilion had a canopy to provide shade, and was designed to allow cool air to circulate throughout the structures. The school was built to house 150 pupils, and now has over 1,000 students!

It is true to say that unlike previous structures this pavilion isn’t designed to wow, or impress, it doesn’t push the boundaries of architecture, and for that it has received criticism. Having said that, I believe it is a great success. It is true to Kéré’s style of architecture, and has succeeded in providing a social area for people to gather and relax in all weather conditions, and for that reason, I really enjoyed it!

The 2017 Serpentine Pavilion is open until 8 October 2017, entrance is free. While there it is worth also checking out the Grayson Perry exhibition The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever! at the Serpentine Gallery, entrance also free.

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That History Girl Travels ~ Oslo Day 2

After a pretty decent nights sleep (we were out like lights at 10pm) and despite a rather noisy dorm mate, woke up refreshed and ready for our 8am start.

Having bought an Oslo 72 hour pass (£50 for students) we were keen to visit as many museums as possible.

We arrived at the Munch Museum bright and early for its 10am opening time, hoping to see Munch’s famous painting The Scream. Unfortunately, having been stolen in 2004 and sadly damaged before its 2006 return it wasn’t on show, rather disappointing given every poster bore it’s unmistakable features. Nevertheless, an exhibition on Munch and his contemporary, Jorn, provided an interesting hour.

The highlight for myself and Emily was the colour by numbers section of the exhibit; we had a competition on FB to decide the best one. Emily won. I’m not bitter. 

After the Munch Museum, Emily and I parted ways, she went to the Natural History Museum, whilst I headed to the Astrup Fearnley Modern Art Gallery, which focused on both art and Architecture.

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The building itself is a beautiful work of architecture, divided into two halves, one containing the permanent collection, the other housing temporary exhibits. The temporary exhibition “Los Angeles – A Fiction” was by far my favorite,  featuring many American artists including Alexis Smith, David Hockney and Charles Ray.

The permanent collection was much larger, with a wider range of mediums, however I found it rather bland. Bisected baby cows in preservative, and crucified sheep are not art. They are simply cruel, hideous and unnecessary. The highlight of this half was a 10ft high bookshelf sporting large grey lead books, by artist Anselm Kiefer.

After my brief trip to the modern era it was time to go back to ancient times and visit the castle or Akershus Fortress.

Within the fortress walls also lies the Resistance Museum which catalogs the struggles of the Norwegian Resistance throughout the 2nd world war, through continued fighting, underground publications and refusal to fight. Whilst not the largest museum, and mostly in Norwegian (although there is a good guide English guide book) it tells the stories through the medium of models.

A20161218_143301.jpgs with all or Norway, it seems, the castle itself was closed for the winter. Ordinarily the interior of the castle, as well as the Mausoleum and Chapel are open to the public, however when we went only the visitors center was available.  The visitors center itself was essentially a museum, with 2 rooms focusing on the history of the castle and relations between Norway-Denmark and its battles with surrounding countries, and another room on the castle’s previous function as a prison.

Still an active government / military base, visitors can watch the changing of the guard, raising and lowering of the flag at sunrise and sunset (about 3pm in December), as well as enjoy a beautiful walk around the castle grounds.

Our final stop was an evening visit to the Film Museum, housed on the ground floor of a large cinema complex. With late opening hours, and free entry, we tacked it on to our itinerary. The museum is small, and whilst an English information sheet is provided, it rarely matched up to the pieces on show.  It’s a quaint museum fairly close to the castle, so a good one to visit if you find yourself nearby with half an hour to kill.

After another dinner at Hard Rock Cafe (yes it’s the only place that serves vegetarian food) we were back at the hostel to read and relax (and enjoy the US netflix options Norway gets) it was sleep time again!

Pennys,  Trains and Butts – The Turner Prize 2016

The Turner Prize for modern art, first awarded in 1984 is a celebration of modern, innovative, British art. Awarded annually to an artist born, living or working in the UK, aged 40 or under, the prize has caused much controversy over its 32 year history.

In 2016 Helen Marten,  Anthea Hamilton, Josephine Pryde and Michael Dean all vie for the £25,000 prize, and the critical acclaim that accompanies it.

The Turner Prize Installations, housed at the Tate Britain, comprise of 4 rooms, one per artist. The £9.50 Student concession price does seem rather steep,  particularly if the prize is designed, at least partially, to inspire a new generation of British artists!

The first room, belonging to Helen Marten was probably my least favourite, and left me feeling distinctly underwhelmed. Whilst the ornate, multisegmented insects hanging from the walls were visually appealing, striking they were not! I may be vaguely biased on this matter; the incessant screeching of the alarm signalled that, yet again, a small child in clumsy Lelly Kellys, playing hopscotch over the “Do Not Cross” line had narrowly avoided damaging the artwork, as her mother gazed on, disinterested.

Anthea Hamilton’s exhibition was the space I knew the most about before arriving. Based on her New York exhibition Anthea Hamilton: Lichen! Libido! Chastity! for which she was nominated, her Tate installation has attracted huge public attention, particularly for the ginormous butt pictured above. Countless selfies and photos flood the instagram hashtag with Project for a Door (the official name for the derriere in question) which was inspired by designer Gaetano Pesce’s plan for a New York doorway. Reactions from my fellow museum goers ranged from the very British embarrassment,  to mildly amused through to 3 gleeful children, excited about this rather large ‘taboo’ presented before them. I found it oddly entrancing, and almost hard to look away.

The other half of Hamilton’s room is dominated by a floor to ceiling photo of the June London sky. In front of it hangs several silver chastity belts, decorated with rosemary, or with ornate carvings.

Room number 3; Designed by Josephine Pryde, this room is probably the simplest design, but in no way does this detract from the effectiveness. A Class 65 diesel train, decorated with graffiti, sits on tracks that span the length of the room, almost inviting the viewer to clamber aboard.

Around the room photographs adorn the wall, part of Josephine Pryde’s Hands “Für Mich”, mainly focused on, as the name would suggest, hands, sporting immaculate nail varnish. After the more explicit nature of Anthea Hamilton’s room Pryde’s room felt all together more soporific. The photos on the wall all contain a message about society and/or feminism, however they aren’t thrust into the face of the viewer, she simply allows you to seek the message if you wish.

The final room was arranged by Michael Dean. Probably my favourite room, the majority of floor space was taken up by a huge mound of pennies, £20,435.99 worth to be exact. Out of the pennies sprung a corregated steel family of 4, they gaze over the money that represents their poverty line. On completing the room Dean removed a single penny, effectively putting the family below the poverty line. Coming together with concrete sculptures, ink-died books, and seemingly random models of fists, this piece of art is a beautifully jumbled commentary on modern society, strongly influenced by Dean’s Newcastle upbringing.

Michael Dean’s art was definately the most disordered, and least ‘readable’ beyond the poignant carpet of coins; Ironic, as the starting point for his work is usually writing. The room was increadibly busy, with artwork popping up in unexpected locations on the floor, and narrow spaces for visitors to pass through, it certainly kept you on your toes!

Overall this was a great afternoon out, albeit fairly busy with limited space for people to move around between the pieces of artwork in some rooms.

Having spent £10 on the exhibition, being the cheap student I am, I obviously wanted to get the most out of my money, so I watched every film at the end, flicked through every book, and read every comment on the comment board. Whilst doing this I discovered that the artists had envisioned, or produced far more tactile pieces of work than we were allowed to engage in.

Anthea Hamilton had designed her suit and boots to be handled and felt, and yet we couldn’t enjoy this aspect of this exhibition. Josephine Pryde had intended visitors to her exhibition to ride on the train and from here enjoy the photos on the wall, and yet we just admired. Finally, Michael Dean initially allowed visitors to walk over his mound of coins, to feel the sea-like movement, and hear the metallic clatter.We could only observe, transfixed by the gleaming mass before us.

For modern art, tactility can often form a large dimension of the experience, and yet this was taken away from us; how then can we truly judge the art work? Isn’t it unfair, too, for the artists who worked and laboured, only to have their greatest works admired only in 3D, instead of its full 4D glory?

I really hope in future the Tate will allow artists, and visitors to produce,  and engage in more immersive pieces, and truly allow us to connect.  Especially if they’re gonna charge us a tenner for it.

The Turner Prize Installations are running at the Tate Britain until 2 January 2017 . Price range from £9.50 to £12